Sydney: Australia’s national security agencies will be concentrated under a powerful new home affairs ministry in a cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (pictured) on Tuesday.
Controversial Immigration Minister Peter Dutton starts with the new portfolio of home affairs minister and will have control over the domestic intelligence agency ASIO, Australian Federal Police, Border Force, Customs and Immigration.
Dutton, a former Queensland police officer, has caused international controversy with his hard line against asylum seekers who try to reach Australia by boat, and his administration of the refugee detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.
It is the first time the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation — the domestic spy agency — and the federal police have not been under the control of the attorney-general.
The creation of a US-style homeland security portfolio was foreshadowed by Turnbull in July, but it has taken time to work out the ministerial amalgamation of the national security and intelligence agencies.
“For the first time, domestic security, border control and anti-terrorist agencies will be under the one roof along the line of the British Home Office,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Sydney.
“It will keep Australia safer having these agencies together,” the prime minister added.
Dutton will also be in charge of a new office of national intelligence, an expanded cyber security agency working around the clock, and the inspector-general of intelligence and security.
Dutton is one of the leading arch-conservatives in the Turnbull government, and his support for Turnbull inside the party has been seen as crucial in preventing an open split between conservatives and moderates in cabinet.
Attorney-General Senator George Brandis leaves parliament to become the High Commissioner in London, the equivalent of ambassador in the British Commonwealth.
Brandis is replaced by Christian Porter, a former state attorney-general in Western Australia, who is seen as a rising figure in the ruling Liberal Party.
Turnbull announced a string of other promotions and ministerial shifts to prepare his government ahead of the next election due in late 2019. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Treasurer Scott Morrison retain their posts. — dpa